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IT staffing shortages? Think outside the box

Potential growth in the IT job market has been constrained this summer by a significant talent shortages despite strong demand, according to TechServe Alliance.

And it’s only going to become more acute.

According to the Department of Labor, “Employment of computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow 13 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. These occupations are projected to add about 557,100 new jobs. Demand for these workers will stem from greater emphasis on cloud computing, the collection and storage of big data, and information security.”

Resourceful IT leaders like Cory Mason, CIO at Twin Disc, are tapping their networks to build their own feeder programs to increase the supply and diversity of IT job candidates.

The first class to participate in the Start IT program with founders and partners.

Mason, along with Michael Polzin, CEO at Leeward Business Advisors and Chuck Goodremote, retired CIO at Modine Manufacturing, are the creative minds behind the Racine, Wisconsin based Start IT, a program designed to introduce underemployed/unemployed young adults to potential career path opportunities within the IT field. The program is focused on the Help Desk entry level job, a common starting point in the IT profession. Rather than creating a separate non-profit organization, the program leverages the area’s business community, government, and education institutions to work collaboratively and leverage their specific expertise.

The first phase of Start IT training is a 16-week program (24 hours per week) that includes fundamental IT training, earning five credits from Gateway Technical College; life skills coaching from the county’s Workforce Solutions Center; and the opportunity to participate in real-life ticket resolution and help desk scenarios as a Help Desk Trainee led by a level 3 Help Desk professional from the participating companies.

The program is strategically located at the inner-city George Bray Neighborhood YMCA. Jauntair Campbell, Career Planner for Racine Country Workforce Solutions, said the idea is to make access to the training more accessible for underserved communities.

After successfully completing Phase I, students move into Phase II of the program, a six-month internship that varies from between 28-40 hours per week at participating organizations. Current partners include Twin Disc, Modine, Leeward Business Advisors, Racine County and University of Wisconsin – Parkside. Students are compensated for their work with the end goal that participants finish with relevant resume experience to launch an IT job search with a positive work record from a reputable employer.

Class 2 of the Start IT program completed Phase I in late August 2018. All students are beginning Phase II with paid internships at participating partner companies.

Mason said that the first round (Phase I & II) had 7 participants. All 7 completed Phase I. During Phase II, three of the participants washed out. Of the remaining four students, two committed to completing degrees at the technical college; one was hired before the phase completed, and the remaining individual is in an active job search.

“Bottom line, that’s a 50 percent success rate for the first round. We are currently in the second round with six individuals enrolled in Phase I, and all six completed Phase I and graduated. At this point, four are interested in the help desk, and two are already looking beyond the help desk to networking opportunities in IT. All six individuals have been placed with the participating organizations and will be starting their internships in two weeks.”

Organizers look to move from the pilot program to a fully operational model with supporting structures and continued local partnerships between government, business and education by the end of 2018.

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